Where Beliefs Come From
If there’s a single intellectual question that obsesses me, it’s that: where do beliefs and ideology, particularly in the political context, come from? How is ideology formed and passed through family connections, educational institutions and social networks? I tend to think that peer groups play a massive, massive role in this process and Ezra offers some interesting thoughts here:
The deeper a pol gets into their party's national apparatus, the more time they'll spend with intense, committed, eloquent, hardline advocates of their party's position on the issue, and the more likely they'll end up buying into at least some of their ally's premises and looking with increased skepticism towards some of the other side's arguments. And abortion, more so than most, offers two fundamentally compelling, diametrically opposed narratives. It's the best-framed issue in American politics, and it offers the least in the way of middle ground.
I think this is very astute and quite true. There are a number of interesting examples: Howard Dean was kind of a mild-mannered DLC-endorsed governor but spending his time around all those crazy Deaniacs made him a really believer in small-d democracy and reforming the Democratic party. Jim Webb has been spending all of his time around Democrats and he’s becoming a serious class warrior. And Joseph Lieberman seems to be spending all of his time around neoconservative nutcases and is, himself, becoming even more of a neoconservative nutcase.